What a difference a year makes

Last week was rough. Though I’m grateful Mile High Mamas continues to be a popular Colorado resource, it’s disheartening to be constantly reminded of what I’m missing. I’ve been working on a Denver summer activity guide and I’m mourning the loss of all my favorite adventures. The event and travel invitations have been flooding in and though we’re visiting Colorado this summer, I’ve had to pass on most opportunities. A friend asked if I miss being the “IT” girl with all-things family and tourism at my fingertips. I definitely do but also don’t feel like that is the path I’m supposed to take here in Utah so it’s frustrating not surging forward like my usual ambitious self.  Plus, I was sick sick sick for a few days and I was in a certifiable funk.

Jamie and I started a healthier regimen and things have really started clicking for me this week as I’ve resolved there are so many things in my life that are out of my control but since our move, I’m finally getting back into a routine of working out and eating better. In just five days, I feel the difference. I’ve never disliked being here…almost immediately I fell in love with this charming valley but there is still so much rebuilding–with our home, personally and my career–that needs to take place.

I’ve been missing my friends so sent a text to my local snowshoeing group to see if anyone would be interested in doing the Dirty Dash 5K with me in June. I had a blast doing the Mudderella and Diva Dash in Colorado and figured it would be swell to train for something, even if I’m still trying to figure out how to do that with two injured knees. At first, I only heard from the women who were out of town that weekend and I started to give up but slowly but surely, the registrations started coming in. And coming.  We’ve had 15 women sign up to be on my team, many of which are going waaaaay out of their comfort zone to do it.

My favorite response was from my friend Julie G. To put this in perspective, as I was building our snowshoeing/outdoorsy mom network here, I asked her if she liked to hike. “If you have any mom’s nights out that involve movies and food, I’m your gal,” she responded.  I was obviously surprised to see her sign up and she later posted, “I’m not sure if I’m excited or terrified. My daughter just reminded me that I don’t run and I don’t get dirty.”

It’s gonna be epic.

My Facebook memory from a year ago today was the very beginning of what would be a hellacious multi-month ordeal in selling our house. 

I sent it to Jamie and he responded: “It made me feel yucky inside to see that.”

We may have a long way to go but I can’t discount how far we’ve come.



Off to the Races!

When Bode turns 11 in July, he will officially enter Boy Scouts which means one thing: he only has one more Pinewood Derby in Cub Scouts. Now to give you perspective, Bode comes from the Mercedes of Pinewood Derby families. Grandpa Duane was renowned throughout Colorado for helping Jamie and his brother Chris build the bestest and the fastest (they even won regionals!) so Jamie has been on the same quest.

For Bode’s first car they did a good job, frequently winning heats but did not come out on top. Last year, they upped their game and his car won every single heat and he somehow only placed second, a big disappointment because he actually beat the winning car in a head-to-head. C’est la vie. That was my attitude at least. I’m sure Jamie would have demanded a race-off it wasn’t a church event.

This was Bode’s last chance for redemption so he and Jamie worked hard building his car. It was a busy evening. Bode had a soccer game (which he missed due to all our conflicts) and while Jamie took the car for the weigh-in, I had the privilege of accompanying Bode to “Maturation Night” at the school. He was only slightly mortified to have his mom attend a talk on puberty and I was slightly more mortified (definitely a lot of testosterone and father-son bonding in the room). Thankfully, the talk ended on a high note when each boy received his very own deodorant because one of the biggest takeaways was BOYS STINK. Literally.

We then raced over to the church for the Pinewood Derby. Check-in and weigh-off was chaotic but our ward did a fantastic job with the actual event with a high-tech computer program that recorded, tabulated and displayed each time on a big screen. Each boy received a “Pit Pass” lanyard where they were granted special access to the race area. Each car would race off against two others with six races total. The winner would have the lowest accumulative time.

Pre-race jitters

It’s tough to know just how fast your car is going to be. “I just hope the wheels stay on,” Jamie muttered but they did more than that. Bode’s black beauty easily won his first heat…and every subsequent one after that.

The Top 3

There was no doubt he had the fastest car in the Pack.  Of course, we thought that last year and he placed second overall but we were relived when he took home the title of Fastest Car. I think I may have seen tears in Jamie’s eyes that the family legacy would continue through Bode. His buddy won “Best in Show for his hilarious Banana-shaped car. When Jamie posted about the victory on Facebook our friend and former Bishop asked “Should the congratulations go to Jamie or Bode?” Jamie’s funny response: “I can honestly say that he did more on this car than in past years. But as a good video on building pinewood derby cards once said. ‘Scout, if you feel like this car isn’t really yours, take comfort that someday you’ll have a son of your own.’” The future pressure is on, Bode.

The real nightmare of showing your kids horror movies

Them gem was written two years ago and still in the draft folder. 

My kiddos are turning 9 and 11 and both have been begging me to watch scarier movies. After all, they’ve overcome the trauma of the Wizard of Oz’s flying monkeys, so they should be ready for The Shinings of the world. Right? Wrong.

Call me an overprotective mom, but I’m appalled I spent my tween years watching Friday the 13th at sleepovers where we’d freak each other out by pretending to bring Jason–the silent, undead and unstoppable killing machine–to life. I still remember my adrenaline-fueled bike ride home from my friend Avril’s in the dark after watching Children of the Corn, certain that didn’t bike fast enough, I’d become part of that  dangerous religious cult of children who believe everyone over the age of 18 must be killed. Fortunately, I was only 12 so I was safe. OR WAS I?

Related: College Humor’s Horror Movie Daycare is a must-see if you’re a child who grew up watching the horrors films of the ’80s and ’90s.

I’ve kept my kids pretty sheltered so I figured I’d ease them into the scary-movie genre with Watcher in the Woods. This 1980 American horror mystery thriller film may be be produced by Walt Disney Productions but the movie–in particular the mirror scene at the carnival–haunted me for years.

They laughed in my face. “Mom, that wasn’t scary at all.”

I decided to up the ante with Signs. If stalker in the woods didn’t freak them out, maybe Mel Gibson as a fallen Reverend coupled with aliens would.

They were definitely freaked out but I talked them through the deeper meaning of the film. We even had a really in really in-depth spiritual discussion about signs that are around us every day and I thought all was well.

Until I went to bed.

In the middle of the night, I felt something pressed up against me and realized I’d been curled up in a ball. I felt a toussle of long hair. Hadley. Then I heard someone else breathing heavily. I reached over her to find her brother nestled up against her.

I’ll take that as a Sign we’re putting a kibosh on scarier movies for a while.



Bode’s first race

Another one from the draft folder, dated Oct. 12, 2015. 

Our elementary school has a cross-country team for grades 4-6. I really wanted my daughter Hadley to join because she’s a talented runner but she was reluctant, citing she’s more of a sprint and middle-distance runner, not long distance.

Fair enough. I’m wisely learning to pick my battle with my tween so made the deal that if she joined, I wouldn’t make her do any of the meets…that she could just do it for the joy of running. I motivated her by promising that her increased fitness and endurance would help her with hiking, something she is passionate about (read about her first 14er she climbed last summer).

Out of nowhere, my son Bode piped up. “I want to join the cross-country team.”

“You know it’s running, right?”

“Yes, I know, Mom.”

Bode is many things but a runner is not one of them. First, he has my side of the family’s build (short and stout), not long and lanky like Hadley from the Johnsons. Second, he jerks his head around like a bobblehead because he thinks it makes him run faster. Third, he’s never shown any interest in running and thinks our longer hikes are downright painful.

To his credit, he has enthusiastically attended all his twice-weekly practices, even during sweltering temperatures. And in typical optimistic Bode fashion, he never complained. Another perk I hadn’t anticipated: he has never been better at soccer. That kid can run faster and for longer, which has increased  his confidence and enthusiasm for the game. It has been a joy to watch him this season.

I kept  my promise to not make my kids actually compete until Bode casually mentioned he wanted to try one of their meets.

“You know it’s running, right?”

“Yes, I know, Mom.”

I picked Bode up early from student council and we tore over to a neighboring school that was hosting. He was delighted that in addition to his own peers, most of his soccer team’s buddies were racing as well.

Denver hadn’t seen rain in what felt like months so, of course, the sky was heavy with dark, drooping clouds. A few raindrops started falling so the organizer made the decision to start the boy’s race a bit early. The 1-mile course covered a series of hills and I quickly lost sight of him.

Enter: the downpour.

And then the hail.

Most of the parents ran for cover but I stubbornly stood out there getting pelted. If my boy was going to run through this weather, I was going to be there to greet him at the finish line.  Besides, if anything, seeking shelter from the hail would just make him fun raster, right?

As Bode rounded the final hill, I shouted, “Run, Forrest, Run!” Of course, he didn’t understand the Forrest Gump reference but I beamed with pride as I watched my “non-runner” run his guts out to the finish line.

Bode was drenched and his skin flaming red from getting pelted by the hail but he was beaming. Out of a field of about 40 boys, he took 12th, narrowing missing the top 10 medals but he didn’t care. His first cross-country race taught me a thing (or 12) about what it  means to be a runner. And it’s not about running.He’d tried something new that was hard for him and he did his very best. For him, that was enough.

Though, unlike Forrest, he unambitiously stopped at the finish line instead of running from coast-to-coast for an additional three years.

Better luck next race.


Confessions of a (Horrible) Cat and Fish Sitter

My friend Jana was looking for someone to check in on her cat and fish over Spring Break so I volunteered my middle schooler Hadley. She loves animals and her career aspiration in first grade was to run a Cat Hotel until she later learned it’s not cool to be the crazy cat lady until you’re over 50 years old.

I figured she’d be better equipped to take care of animals since she got off to a rocky start babysitting humans when my friend Sarah asked her:

“Hey, Hadley. Do you babysit?”

“I’m not really good with kids.”

As a former publicist, I was appalled at her pitch.  She later told me she was caught off-guard and meant to say I’m not comfortable taking care of babies. She repented of her trespass by volunteering to watch Sarah’s kids for free while she attended a church event. Hadley limped through the door several hours later.

“How was it?”

“Exhausting. I spent the entire night running around after three boys. How do you do this EVERYDAY?”

And suddenly, the heavens opened and the herald angels sang the Hallelujah shout to the tune of “PAYBACK” for all those sleepless, colicky nights.

As it turns out, she enjoys babysitting (or at least the money she makes) so how much better would a gig be for beasts you don’t have to chase?

Hadley’s responsibilities were simple. Replenish Kitty’s food and water every day, clean the kitty litter box and feed the fish. Jana hadn’t formed an attachment to Fishy and went as far as to say she wouldn’t be sad if he didn’t survive, which made us wonder if we were hired to be fish sitters or assasins. Jana told us we probably wouldn’t even see Kitty who accesses the house via a cat door after partying all night with her feline friends and sleeps all day. Easiest cat-sitting gig ever.

Or was it?

Day 1: Hadley opens garage door, goes about her responsibilities with Kitty. Starts to feed Fishy. He is dead.

Or is he?

We text Jana to ask if we should give him a watery burial. She responds, “He sometimes just looks dead and doesn’t move for a while.”

Cool fish.

Day 2: Fishy appears dead in a different position so we figure he’s still alive in his own way. No sign of Kitty but food has been eaten so we’re in business.

Day 3:  Fishy is moving. It’s an Easter resurrection miracle.

Days 4 and 5: Hadley stays at Grandma’s so I take over duties. All seems in order.

Day 6: Hadley continues her responsibilities. Goes to enter mudroom via the garage but the door is locked, which means we can’t access the house and that I was the person who inadvertently locked it the day before. Panic sets in but fortunately, Kitty’s food and water are in the garage so we can take care of her. Tragically, Fishy will go from resurrection to famine within three days. The irony is not lost on me.

Day 7: When we arrive THE GARAGE DOOR IS ALREADY OPEN. “We closed it when we left yesterday, I’m 100% sure of it,” Hadley wails.

We hesitantly make our way through the garage to the mudroom door, which mysteriously opens. Even though it’s been less than 24 hours since our last visit, Fishy appears really dead this time and is floating on his side at the bottom of the bowl. We feed him anyway because he’s a master manipulator and as we’re attempting to leave the house, we realize the doorknob will not budge and we’re locked inside with a fish who could come to life at any moment.

It takes a few panicked minutes until we position the doorknob just right and we make our escape…but not before I put something in the door jam for the next time we get locked out. Or in. Really, the whole thing is confusing.

I hesitantly text Jana that we were able to get back in the house.

“Oh, our friend needed to grab something today,” she responds. “He probably left the garage door open! I also remembered that mudroom door is sometimes hard to open, so you have to twist the knob really hard.”

Hallelujah shout Take 2.

Day 8: Fishy confirmed dead and Kitty is alive. Allegedly. We didn’t see her all week but she ate all her food. It was probably for the best because we saw Fishy every day and look what happened to him.

Day 9: Jana’s family returns home. Hallelujah shout Take 3 as we are relieved of our pet sitting duties.

When I was relaying the tale of our memorable Spring Break to my son Bode, I joked, “Don’t you want to be a pet sitter?”

“I think I could have done a better job than you and Hadley,” he retorted.

The [low] bar has been set.

P.S. Did I mentioned we’re available for hire?

Love and Marriage: The Laundry Wars

This beauty from my draft folder is from a few years ago. Ahh, the memories!

In most ways, Jamie and I have a very traditional marriage. I take care of most household chores and the children. He works, pays the bills and quarterly taxes and raises freakishly large orange creatures.

Remember, I said MOST WAYS. 

I do the laundry. I hate doing laundry but when we were engaged, I saw how Jamie did laundry and I wanted no part in it (his method involved large heaps of clean clothes that were never put away all week long). Though I don’t claim to be the perfect laundress, my process involves washing, drying, folding and putting away the laundry on the same day. I’m also moderately obsessive about doing laundry when we’re on vacation (if possible) and can’t stand coming home with a suitcase full of dirty clothes.

Jamie, on the other hand, likes to mix his clean clothes with his dirty ones in his suitcase.

It’s like nails on the chalkboard, peeps.

I do laundry a couple of times a week so usually stay on top of things, for which Jamie is openly grateful. But the other day, he made an unusual request.

“Where is my Nike shirt?”

“Which Nike shirt?”

“My grey one. It’s not in my drawer.”

“Then it’s probably in the dirty laundry.”

He proceeded to dig through the laundry basket. “HERE IT IS. Why is it not washed?”

“Let’s see. It’s Thursday and I did the laundry on Monday. That means you must have worn it in the last two days.”

I am the master of deduction.

Jamie is picky about what he wears but for some reason, he was hell-bent on wearing that shirt. And this, my friends, is where another laundry pet peeve comes into play. On the rare occasion he does a load of laundry, he only washes his clothes and nobody else’s.

A few minutes later I walked into the laundry room to see he’d thrown a few of his shirts into the wash (another peeve: not running a full load).

“Jamie, do you see this pile of dirty clothes sitting by the washing machine? It would be swell if you’d put some of these other clothes in to wash as well.”

His response? “I don’t want that dirty stuff touching my stuff.”

Dude needs a lesson in airing dirty laundry.

Utah’s culture club

From the draft folder, October 27, 2016.

I’ll admit that moving back to Utah was never in my game plan. Ever. Though I loved my college experience at BYU and living in Salt Lake City for five years, I’ve never been a huge fan of the culture here. The “are you or aren’t you (Mormon)” issue. This come from both sides. When I started my job at Snowbird, the anti-Mormon marketing staff vetted me to see if I was. And I’ve heard some saddening stories about Mormons not being inclusive to those not of our faith. Frankly, I don’t care what what you are. Can’t we all just get along?!

Utah County is home to many of the orthodox Mormons who live in a “Happy Valley” bubble, Salt Lake City is a mix of those in and not of our faith with a liberal streak, Park City is known to have many anti-Mormons and “Jack Mormons”–those no longer practicing. The high school’s drug problem is exponentially higher than anywhere in Utah.

I wasn’t sure what to expect about the Heber Valley but thus far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Small-town kindness rules over any religions affiliations. You know, the way it should be. I don’t feel like I’m in Utah, just that I’m in a a friendly place where people go above-and-beyond to help one another. We’ll see if/how that opinion chances once we’re more settled.

Before we had even moved into our ward, I randomly had the Teachers (boys ages 14 and 15) call to see if our family was in need of service that night? “Check back in a few weeks for our move, Dude.”

And then the older girls (Mia Maids ages 14 and 15) thoughtfully left this for Hadley. Jamie was offended by its size.

But I’m just grateful for the warm welcome of our beautiful community.

Things I Miss About Colorado

October 8, 2016 was the first night we slept in our new home. Today marks six months since we moved in.

As I was going through my draft folder, I saw that I had started this list “Things I Miss About Colorado” back in October. The longer we’re away, the more I miss Colorado and yet Utah somehow becomes more amenable to me. Every new month brings back Colorado memories and I suspect it will take at least a complete year until I can really move on and be able to truly celebrate the new traditions we’re building.

It’s curious because I really don’t want to move back. I have a firm confirmation this is where we’re supposed to be but I often wish I could go back in time to the way it was when Hadley and Bode would play for hours with their stuffed animals and our world was full of endless days of magic and wonder.

The biggest thing I’ve been mourning is the loss of childhood. Hadley and Bode spent a magical childhood in Colorado and Utah will be their adolescence. My job gave them unprecedented access to grand openings, exclusive previews and travel, travel, travel. I laughed when we returned to the Colorado Springs Grand Opening of Great Wolf Lodge in February. As they gave Hadley her VIP lanyard, she raved, “It’s so good to have something around my neck again!”

Ahhh, the life of a former VIP-turned-regular tween.

Hadley initially adjusted surprisingly well, quickly making friends and landing on the honor roll but has had some heart-wrenching struggles these last two months that have less to do with the move but more to do with toxic middle school. Bode forms much deeper attachments to people and places so the move was harder on him but he is slowly forming deeper connections and is in a happy place with weekly coding classes at the library with his best buddies and spring soccer starting soon.

As for me, I’m still feeling at a loss. Of course, I miss the amazing perks and privileges that came with the life I built in Colorado. But mostly, I miss knowing what new direction I should be taking. I miss being known and needed, and being a builder and connector of people.

Here are other some things from my list of Things I Miss About Colorado:

Our friends. Jamie and I were best friends with the parents of our kids’ best friends. Every time we got together (which was often),  it was a huge party for everyone. We’re making wonderful friends here but it will take years to rebuild. I miss sending an email to see if anyone wants to go for free 7-Eleven Slurpees and a bike ride…and having 30 people show up.

Our house. It had a much better layout and the rooms were more spacious. We’re growing used to some of our frustrations with our new space and will be working a lot to install our yard this spring and summer.

The many wonderful places. Golden. Strolling along Clear Creek. Washington Avenue. The hikes. Chautquaua. YMCA of the Rockies. Playing for hours and biking through Van Bibber Creek.

Target was 2 minutes away, Costco was 10 minutes. Though I’m not a big shopper, I miss the convenience of regular store hours. Small-town living often has shortened hours and the most random closure dates. Yes, Woodland Biscuit Company, I’m talking about the fact that you’re closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays after we drove a half hour for breakfast.

October and April in Denver. Glorious. Mud season in the mountains is not.

Free stuff. Since I’m still running Mile High Mamas, I continue to get invited to a barrage of event, VIP previews and travel invites. It’s depressing not to do any of them (and not be able to afford the ones in Utah!)

Things I don’t miss:

The view behind our fence



The big city and an endless barrage of franchises

Marijuana in the news every day


Of course, I could write a separate list of Things I Love About Midway after just six months and I know it will continue to grow.

To combat our family’s homesickness, we are returning for 10 days of play this summer and I cannot wait to visit our Colorado home again.

A prize-winning cabbage

From the draft folder, April 14, 2015.

“I can win a major award!” My son Bode squealed at me across the field as I picked him up after school.

“A major award” conjured up images of “liquid sex” à la  Christmas Story so I waited until he got closer to expound.

“What are you talking about?” I noticed he was holding a plant.

“This!” He excitedly thrust it into my hand. “Third graders are competing in a contest and the winner will win a $100, no, $1,000…or maybe was it $10,000 scholarship if they grow the biggest cabbage!”

I could see it in his excited little eyes. The kid has been bred to grow giant pumpkins.

But wait there, was a catch and he blurted out:

“Everything is great except for…”


“The part of the scholarship being reward to a random winner.”

He has more of his dad in him than I’d prefer.

What not to say to your self who’s been nursing a sick kid to health all week

From the draft folder, October 22, 2012. Some men never learn. 

Hadley has finally turned the corner from Strep and and fingers are crossed this particular plague has passed by without infecting the rest of us.

By Thursday, I was going out-of-my-mind with cabin fever, particularly since it was the last week before school and talk about a less-than-optimal way to spend it.

I blurted out to Jamie. “I am sooooo BORED!”

What men don’t understand is women need to vent and don’t necessarily need the problem fixed. Jamie offered a solution.

“You could try cleaning the house.”